From 10 to Infinity: CEO and Founder Lei Jun talks about Xiaomi’s first 10 years

As Xiaomi celebrates its 10th year, Lei Jun, Chairman, CEO and Founder recalled Xiaomi’s 10-year journey how it became a Fortune Global 500 listed company.

Setting sail: Our dreams, finding real talent and the right name

Lei Jun began the speech by recalling Xiaomi’s humble beginnings, “From the very beginning, Xiaomi’s dream was to ‘Make the world’s best phones, priced half so that everyone can afford them’. The idea was to improve user experience on the strength of intermingling software, hardware, and internet services – a potential to pose as a disruptive player than a hardware- only business does.”

He continues, “Xiaomi built its initial ‘dream team’ in its start-up phase by employing talents from industry leading technology companies. The right company name is also of great importance when starting a business, and Xiaomi (as spelled in Chinese pinyin, or Small Rice, literal meaning by the character “小米” in Mandarin) was eventually selected after research found it resonated best with target focus groups.”

Braving the winds and waves

With no prior expertise on hardware, Lei Jun along with a team of software engineers developed a mobile operating system. By focusing on heavily used functions such as phone calls, text messages, contacts, and desktop, the team eventually successfully developed the first version in just two months. Subsequently, an online forum was created where volunteers were invited to flash the ROM of their own devices.

“It was a touching moment to see 100 users willing to bear huge unforeseeable risks and flash their devices to MIUI. With no promotion at all, 100 users during the first week, doubled to 200 in the second week and then redoubled to 400 in the third,” Lei Jun shares.

MIUI first caught attention from abroad, one month after its launch, on XDA Developers, an online mobile software development community. MIUI was recommended with utmost enthusiasm by a user on the US-based developers’ forum. Since then, MIUI has become trendy in the tech-savvy circle around the world with users started to voluntarily build up local versions of Mi Community in various countries and regions. MIUI versions in different languages were also developed, and efforts were taken to adapt this system to different models. Thus, shaping a widespread global campaign, with seeds of Xiaomi’s globalisation sown. This was the origin of the Mi Fan culture.

Making the first Xiaomi device

Xiaomi established its hardware team with the best talents from around the world. The goal of making the best possible smartphones set a high bar for the supply chain. This posed a great challenge as most leading supply chain companies are not willing to partner with small companies. With much determination, Xiaomi eventually managed to secure supply chain partners for its first generation smartphone, Mi 1. It became a bestseller, with 300,000 smartphones being produced in the first batch and a registered sales volume of 7 million units was recorded in total.

First-generation Redmi phone

Shortly after Xiaomi’s business took off, a request to help drive the domestic manufacturing supply chain by riding the Xiaomi Phone trend came from the regulatory body. At the start of 2012, “Redmi Project” (Hongmi Project, as spelled in Chinese pinyin) was laid out. This was started with the mindset on making smartphones for everyone in China and working preferentially with domestic suppliers.

Lei Jun shares, “The popularity surrounding first generation Redmi was far higher than expected, it was phenomenal to have sold 44.6 million units in total. This number, back in 2013, helped drive the growth of the domestic supply chain.”

Our broad and inclusive ecosystem

Xiaomi’s high popularity also brought about a bewildering exhibition of extreme sentiments. Many strived to learn from Xiaomi. “We have also been willing to disclose our entire model, hoping to offer help to more entrepreneurs, and pushing forward the reforms in more industries with our model. In 2014, we started this “Ecosystem plan” to incubate more start- ups,” Lei Jun explains.

Over six years, Xiaomi has incubated over 100 ecosystem companies and marketed over 1,000 products deeply loved by our users.

Winding along ridges and peaks

On December 12, 2013, the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV bestowed upon Lei Jun an honour to be one of the annual figures in economy and business, the most prominent public award a Chinese entrepreneur could get.

Within the next five years, Xiaomi would eventually see its revenue soared from RMB 20 billion to RMB 174.9 billion, a significant increment of almost 800%.

Falling at a low ebb

However, starting from 2015, Xiaomi showed signs of growth fatigue. In the smartphone industry, there had been no precedent of managing to turn the table after sales volumes plummeted. Xiaomi, at that time, was at the intersection of life and death.

The premium flagship Mi MIX series

At the beginning of 2014, MIX was conceptualised by Xiaomi’s engineers, posing the question of “What would the future smartphone be like?”. The idea of making a full-screen display smartphone was groundbreaking at that time.

After a few hurdles, Mi MIX was born. It was later added to the collections in three of the world’s renowned design museums, including the National Design Museum in Finland.

“The success of Mi MIX owes its thanks to our invaluable engineering culture. Engineers are our assets. To fully unleash our engineers’ capabilities to innovate and explore in uncharted areas, we have set up the Xiaomi Annual Technology Award. This is Xiaomi’s highest honor to core R&D project teams that bring about prominent technological breakthroughs and contributions. USD 1 million worth of stocks will be awarded,” Lei Jun shares.

Product Quality

The price to performance ratio is key to Xiaomi’s success. Over the past few years, Xiaomi has taken all-out efforts to improve product quality regardless of cost. These improvements have earned Xiaomi many awards and accolades, both in China and overseas. In 2019, Xiaomi received the national top quality and technology award.

From 10 to infinity

Xiaomi has had many milestones and experienced many great achievements and moments. Here are the three top spotlight moments:

Firstly, it was the IPO and the announcement of the 5%. Prior to Xiaomi’s IPO, on April 25, 2018, a launch event was held in Wuhan University, where it was announced that a decision approved by the Board of Directors, a promise to Xiaomi users that the hardware business will have an overall after-tax net profit margin that will never exceed 5%. If the margin crosses 5%, Xiaomi will find a way to return the excess above 5% to their users. Lei Jun’s philosophy is “Good companies earn money, and great companies win users’ hearts”.

Secondly, Xiaomi Campus opened its doors in July last year. And lastly, making it on the Fortune Global 500 list.

Future strategies

Lei Jun shares his three points in this strategy.

Firstly, being a start-up again. “To lead ourselves out of today’s predicament, we would need the passion from our start-up period. Talents must be valued, incentives need to be given and strategic opportunities have to be grasped,” says Lei Jun.

Secondly, internet + manufacturing. Lei Jun continues, “We believe in the power of the internet, and its methodologies. We will continue to empower manufacturing with the internet. We have developed lots of high-end manufacturing facilities, and designed the fully automated production line of high-end smartphones. Xiaomi Industry Fund has invested in over 70 semiconductor and intelligent manufacturing companies, to shape up our future of becoming the “manufacturing of manufacturing”.

Lastly, plan longer, walk farther. “We will evaluate all the things in a view of 10 years, and do things that will value in the long-term. In the meantime, we will keep a prudent strategy,” says Lei Jun.

Read the full speech by Lei Jun in “From 10 to Infinity, a speech by Lei Jun” by referring to the blog .

Mi 10 Ultra

For this anniversary, Xiaomi does not only launch new products, but declare its manifesto for the next decade.

– Mi 10 Ultra contains many breakthroughs in technologies. 120X ultra zoom camera, world’s No. 1 in DxO Mark, 120W wired fast charging, 50W wireless fast charging, and etc

Xiaomi’s courage and strength in competing in the high-end smartphone market are just buttressed by these cutting-edge technologies.

– Redmi K30 Ultra brings to consumers a zero regret flagship smartphone to pay Xiaomi’s tribute to its dreams, and its 10 years together with Mi Fans.

– Mi TV LUX Transparent Edition, the world’s first mass produced transparent TV. It’s already very cool to turn impossible into possible.

A commemorative speech celebrating Xiaomi’s 10th Year Anniversary by Lei Jun, Chairman,

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